Under the rule of the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers, people in the story's fictional society are "equal in every which way." It must be acknowledged, however, that the society in the story has a tremendously skewed idea of what makes people equal. In Vonnegut's short story, people who are...
Under the rule of the Handicapper General, Diana Moon Glampers, people in the story's fictional society are "equal in every which way." It must be acknowledged, however, that the society in the story has a tremendously skewed idea of what makes people equal. In Vonnegut's short story, people who are considered above average are given handicaps in order to make them equal to the people around them who are considered average or less than average. There are many handicaps described throughout the story, including both mental and physical handicaps.
A few of the mental handicaps mentioned include tiny ear radios, headphones, and thick glasses with wavy lenses. George Bergeron and two of the ballerinas are forced to wear tiny ear radios that send out horrific sounds every twenty seconds.
And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear. . . Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.
The ear radios are meant to keep people of above average intelligence from thinking long enough to put together complete intelligent thoughts or realize they live in a dystopia. Harrison is forced to wear an extreme version of the tiny ear radios; Harrison must wear large headphones at all times. Harrison is also required to wear glasses with thick wavy lenses that induce headaches and keep him from being able to see or concentrate.
The story also goes into detail about physical handicaps. People of above average strength are forced to wear heavy scrap metal or heavy bags of birdshot.
Scrap metal was hung all over [Harrison]. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard.
The heavy metals and birdshot are meant to keep strong people from being able to move quickly or overpower the weaker people around them.
There are also handicaps used to hide a person's natural physical attractiveness. Beautiful and handsome people are forced to wear ugly masks, fake teeth, and/ or red rubber noses.
And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that [Harrison] wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.
The H-G men use a variety of physical and mental handicaps in order to keep the people of the society "equal." Unfortunately, the society's idea of equality is far from what equality really is.